She was born in Bratislava. After completing her studies at the local conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts, she was engaged as a soloist of the National Theatre Opera in Prague (1970-81). In 1971 she began performing as a guest on foreign stages; for example, in Dublin (1971), Reggio Emilia (1973), Parma and Bologna. Subsequently, she became a permanent guest of Amsterdam’s Nederlandse Opera (1974-80), Munich’s Bayerische Staatsoper (1975-98) and Vienna’s Staatsoper (1976-2000). She has sung for 35 years on the world’s foremost opera stages, including (in addition to those already mentioned) Milan’s La Scala, in Rome, Venice, Genoa, at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, Teatro Líceo in Barcelona, Teatro Real in Madrid, in Granada, Seville, at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Paris’s Palais Garnier, Théâtre du Châtelet and Opéra Bastille, London’s Covent Garden, in Geneva, Zurich, Cologne, Bonn, Hamburg, Dresden, Stuttgart and at Berlin’s Staatsoper and Deutsche Oper.
She has also performed on opera stages in Japan and Canada. A special chapter in her artistic career was appearances on opera stages in the USA – San Francisco, Los Angeles, and at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. On this prestigious stage she sang Janáček’s Katya Kabanová and Jenůfa, Dvořák’s Rusalka, Leonora in Beethoven’s Fidelio, Mimi in Puccini’s La Bohème and Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello.
Equally extensive is her concert activity. On numerous occasions she has presented Czech music at New York’s Carnegie Hall (concert versions of Jenůfa, Katya Kabanová, Libuše, Rusalka, and a host of independent concerts). She has sung at a number of international festivals – in Salzburg with the conductor James Levin, in Paris with the conductor Marek Janowski, at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, at Prague Spring. Furthermore, she has performed with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Wiener Philharmoniker and other leading orchestras. She has collaborated over the long term with, among others, the conductors Václav Neumann, Jiří Kout, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Claudio Abbado, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Nello Santi, Carlo Maria Giulini, Lovro von Matačič, George Prêtre, James Levin, Leonard Bernstein, Jeffrey Tate, Christoph von Dohnányi, Sir George Solti, Sir Charles Mackerras, Luis Garcia Navarro, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, James Conlon and John Fiore. She has worked with such renowned stage directors as Walter Felsenstein, August Everding, Götz Friedrich, Otto Schenk, Nikolaus Lenhoff and Kurt Horres.
Gabriela Beňačková is the holder of several prestigious titles and awards: National Artist (Czechoslovakia, 1985), Chamber Singer (Austria, 1985, and Germany, 1987 ), Arturo Toscanini Award, Giuseppe Verdi Gold Medal, Grammy Award (New York, 1995), Gold Medal and Janáček Medal for her performance in the opera Katya Kabanová. She has recorded a number of complete operas, songs and both Czech and international oratorio and cantata works. She is one of the most distinct opera singers of the present time and foremost representatives of 20th century Czech music.